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Japanese host club documentary
July 28, 2007 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Following this 2005 post, this documentary on Osaka "Host Clubs", "The Great Happiness Space" [Google vid 1:15; misleading preview here] is like nothing I've ever seen. Dark and light and wrenching and weird and funny. And dark. Kafka comes to mind for a lot of viewers, but this would fail as fiction. A midpoint shift forces you to confront a reality that is staggeringly complex. It's a kaleidescope of self-awareness and -delusion; compassion and manipulation; candor and deception. Layered, nuanced, and self-referential. The chief host's blog translated somewhat idiosyncratically by google, gives you another perspective [note: not included in the spirit of "LOL Engrish"]. This insider's account of a hostess club, written by a Duke University sociologist, is a lot more predictable and straightforward.
posted by Phred182 (24 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The film is extraordinary and one of my favorite documentaries. However, unless I'm severely mistaken the rights to this film are owned by Mongrel Media so it shouldn't be up on Gv.
posted by dobbs at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2007


I got pulled out to hostess clubs when I was working in Japan. It was an interesting and almost innocent experience. Mind you, I lived in rural Japan, and not one of the big cities, so the clubs were usually staffed by Vietnamese girls and Philappinas. I was never taken to a bar where they employed Russians or Koreans (probably too expensive) but I would often see them walking around town.

When I was on JET some of the teachers would go out twice a year. "Tell 'em we're plumbers!" they alway warned me. Being a small town, it would be bad if people found out the teachers were going to hostess bars. It wasn't really all that fun. There was karaoke (I always sang "Copacabana"), whiskey-and-water, rice crackers wrapped in seaweed, and, of course, the girls. Their Japanese was terrible, but some of them spoke English. I was paired with a girl from the Philippines once who talked about her family back home, and her love for Christ. Meanwhile, the other teachers had coaxed their girls to sit on their laps, and were having a wonderful time.

My wife is ambivalent about hostess (not host) clubs. She says they're great if you can find a good conversationalist who's easy on the eyes, but most of the time the clubs are a waste of money. Another time, I was taken to a club that employed actual Japanese girls. They were locals, and boy were they dumb. None had more than a high school education. Needless to say, they were not good conversationalists, and asked me the usual questions: where do you come from, how old are you, do you like Japanese food.

Hostess bars are just another way for men (and sometimes women) to get together and bond, although it's kind of a waste of money. Still, it's a socially acceptable way for married men to talk to, and sometimes even touch, young women. It wouldn't be so bad except for the underworld connections.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:14 AM on July 28, 2007


This insider's account of a hostess club, written by a Duke University sociologist, is a lot more predictable and straightforward.

Is he on the lacrosse team?
posted by three blind mice at 8:49 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Incredible documentary! Thanks for posting. I'll definitely track that one down on DVD for my collection. Amazing.
posted by The Deej at 9:26 AM on July 28, 2007


Jesus, that just tore me in half. I was almost in tears toward the end, truly... All are punished
posted by Thoth at 11:49 AM on July 28, 2007


I love this
posted by Rubbstone at 12:13 PM on July 28, 2007


3BM, I thought the Duke Lacrosse team roster had relatively few female Japanese-speaking second-wave feminist sociologists that could bring the heets enough to get a hostess job, but maybe that's just stereotyping on my part.
posted by Phred182 at 1:53 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm five minutes in and bored to tears. Ya'lls lurid praise had better be lived up too.
posted by delmoi at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2007


although it's kind of a waste of money

When I lived in Japan, the salarymen who went to them weren't spending their own money, but that of their corporations'.

And I was extremely jealous of the American, French, and Australian girls on my exchange program who made the equivalent of 300 bucks or so for spending Saturday nights working at an "international" hostess bar.

They said it was a little creepy, but definitely worth it. One of them said it was less threatening than hanging out in her hometown's bar on a Saturday.
posted by bardic at 3:15 PM on July 28, 2007


Hypnotically watchable, but soooooo depressing. As one poster mentioned, there is a serious shift in tone about 30 minutes into it; so if you are just watching it as a sort of cross-cultural nibble, better stop right there.
posted by Touch at 4:22 PM on July 28, 2007


Looks fascinating. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:56 PM on July 28, 2007


As one poster mentioned, there is a serious shift in tone about 30 minutes into it;

Two shifts really.. You first learn that the hosts are essentially pimps. 80% of the women are earning money in the sex trade themselves, and the hosts often subtly push the women into it, and give the women instruction. But then you learn that most of the women have favored hosts at several different bars. So, the pimp analogy falls down a little..

All that's wrong with the world distilled into 75 minutes, or this is your brain on consumerism? Anyway, it is a lot more disturbing than Guys and Dolls (posted a couple of weeks ago).
posted by Chuckles at 5:37 PM on July 28, 2007


Uhhhh. I guess it's pointless to post SPOILER ALERT below the spoilers, eh?
posted by The Deej at 8:50 PM on July 28, 2007


Uhhhh. I guess it's pointless to post SPOILER ALERT below the spoilers, eh?
posted by The Deej at 10:50 PM on July 28


Spoiler alert?

For documentaries?

You can't be serious.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:29 PM on July 28, 2007


I think the gradual revealing of details about these people is one of the things that make this documentary work, so I think a spoiler alert isn't unreasonable.

Thank you. That was very interesting. I was almost going to stop watching halfway through and am glad I kept watching.
posted by bread-eater at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Spoiler alert?

For documentaries?

You can't be serious.


Yes, I are serious.

A documentary like this unfolds the story in a specific way for the exact reason to maximize the effect when certain parts of the story are revealed. Otherwise, the director would not have withheld that part of the dynamic. I'm glad I watched it without knowing any more than what the trailer showed. I showed it to my daughter, and deliberately did not tell her the whole story. I think the best way to experience the film is the way the director intended, and that's how I'd recommend it.

There are a number of documentaries that would warrant a spoiler alert, actually.
posted by The Deej at 10:41 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


delmoi??? Still awake? Ever finish it?
posted by The Deej at 10:43 PM on July 28, 2007


delmoi??? Still awake? Ever finish it?

I went off to a party with some friends and only got half way through. The first half did get more interesting, but I don't think I got to the 'twist' yet. Is it like The Crying Game? I think I'm to tired to watch the rest now, but I will tomorrow. I only read the bottom two comments in the thread...
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on July 28, 2007


How can we go any further than "ya, great documentary", unless with discuss the content?

I found it had something powerful to say about human relationships that I would really like to explore. However, I've no idea where to begin, so I would really like to see some discussion of the content..

Spoiler alert? For documentaries?

Ya, I actually used the word spoiler, but then I deleted it, because I couldn't stand the idea of participating in such stupidity. Go read that Guys and Dolls thread. Anybody worried about spoilers in there? Are the spoilers in the discussion any less spoilyish?

Anyway, complaints go in MetaTalk..
posted by Chuckles at 11:19 PM on July 28, 2007


Is it like The Crying Game? I think I'm to tired to watch the rest now, but I will tomorrow. I only read the bottom two comments in the thread...
posted by delmoi


Nah, nothing so dramatic. But that would be something! I wouldn't even call it a twist, more of an aha.

And thank goodness you didn't tell your friends "Sorry! I can't come out and party! I need to stay in and watch a subtitled Japanese documentary!"
posted by The Deej at 11:29 PM on July 28, 2007


Is it like The Crying Game? I think I'm to tired to watch the rest now, but I will tomorrow. I only read the bottom two comments in the thread...
posted by delmoi


Nah, nothing so dramatic. But that would be something! I wouldn't even call it a twist, more of an aha.

And thank goodness you didn't tell your friends "Sorry! I can't come out and party! I need to stay in and watch a subtitled Japanese documentary!"
posted by The Deej at 11:30 PM on July 28, 2007


Okay, I'm pretty sure I got to "the twist" (I'm 40 minutes in). It is pretty interesting. Nothing too surprising about any of it, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2007


(I mean it was surprising given what I had seen so far of the film, but not surprising what I know of human nature)
posted by delmoi at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2007


Good way to put it, delmoi.

I also found the monologue by the host, sitting outside the club, extremely insightful. "People come here to the city, looking for something, and they find each other ... People are sad and lonely, but they are also sparkling and beautiful."

Wow.

When I showed this to my daughter, she loved it as well. It looks like it won't be too easy to find. Amazon shows one available for $35. I'll do some more poking around, but I do want it in my collection.
posted by The Deej at 6:11 PM on July 29, 2007


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